A Boy and His Dog

Year: 1975

Production: LQJaf Productions

Director: L.Q. Jones

Starring: Don Johnson, Susanne Benton, Jason Robards, Alvy Moore, Tim McIntire (as the dog's voice)

Screenwriter: L.Q. Jones

Based on A Boy and his Dog (1969) by Harlan Ellison

89 minutes; Color

Set in AD2024, post-holocaust, this brutally pragmatic film concerns two survivors, a young man and his dog; the latter has high intelligence and the ability to communicate telepathically with his partner. They move through a desolate landscape, inhabited by dangerous scavengers, and find a girl from an underground society. She lures the youth below to her home society, which is a venomous parody of middle-class, small-town US values; here he is expected to become, in effect, a convenient sperm bank to be mechanically milked. He rejects this regimented existence and escapes back to the surface with the girl. Finding his dog starving, he kills the girl to provide food, and the two walks off into the menacing sunset, thus resolving an unusual love triangle. The underground sequences are perhaps too stagey and share the film uneasily with the gritty realism of the surface ones. Jones (character-actor turned director) adapted the Ellison story honestly and unfussily. This is one of the better small-budget sf films (it was the recipient of a Hugo), once again showing small independent producers taking risks that would horrify the big studios.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

A Boy and His Dog is based on the novella by Harlan Ellison, the "wild man" of modern sf whose controversial collection of stories Dangerous Visions was highly influential in both broadening the market for sf and stimulating the genre's practitioners. The directorial debut of Jones, a regular character actor in westerns (particularly those of Sam Peckinpah), the film broaches the by now traditional theme of life in a post-nuclear-holocaust America in an entirely untraditional manner. At the heart of Jones' rambling narrative lies the relationship between Johnson's scavenger and his dog, Blood, with whom he can communicate telepathically. But in place of the usual sentimentality that underpins such relationships, Jones substitutes a heady and cynical pragmatism. Hence the film's climax has Johnson reject the idea of a loving relationship with Benton in order to kill her and feed her to the starving Blood before the pair walk off into a troubled sunset.

The second half of the film, in which Johnson descends from the ravaged surface to discover the life-styie of Middle America preserved as if in aspic, but in need of new blood unless it is to collapse, is less successful, if only because its targets are more obvious and the plot convolutions required to get Johnson back to the surface too forced. The film is at its impressive best in Jones' visualization of the devastation that is the year 2024 and when he simply lets Johnson and Blood meander on, each comment of the dog brutally undercutting our every expectation of a canine's perception of life.

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Science Fiction

Related links:
Classic Science Fiction Reviews at scifi.com

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